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Giant Volume Change of Active Gels under Continuous Flow

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posted on 21.05.2014 by Ye Zhang, Ning Zhou, Ning Li, Megan Sun, Dongshin Kim, Seth Fraden, Irving R. Epstein, Bing Xu
While living systems have developed highly efficient ways to convert chemical energy (e.g., ATP hydrolysis) to mechanical motion (e.g., movement of muscle), it remains a challenge to build muscle-like biomimetic systems to generate mechanical force directly from chemical reactions. Here we show that a continuous flow of reactant solution leads to by far the largest volume change to date in autonomous active gels driven by the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction. These results demonstrate that microfluidics offers a useful and facile experimental approach to optimize the conditions (e.g., fabrication methods, counterions, flow rates, concentrations of reagents) for chemomechanical transduction in active materials. This work thus provides much needed insights and methods for the development of chemomechanically active systems based on combining soft materials and microfluidic systems.